End of May, I had the opportunity to speak about large-scale transformations in banks at the Agile in Banking, Finance & Fintech conference Agilia Prague. It was a nice small conference in a modern venue with high-class speakers from all over Europe. As it was focused on an industry, it enabled specialized discussions about the specific challenges that banks are currently facing. I can definitely recommend browsing through the slides of the various speakers on the conference’s website.
Where to start with large agile transformations?
In my talk I started to dig right into the question on where to start with large agile transformations. If you want to undergo a real transformation, you must understand that it’s not only about strategy, but also about values and principles and the commitment to start by oneself. This could mean attending programming lectures of and the use of task boards in senior management as they have to act as role model for their colleagues and employees. In addition, this behavior will initiate the cultural change that is necessary unleashing the full potential of agile methods.
When thinking about the specific approach to start first initiatives, you have to be aware that there are several options that range from slow and cautious setups to fast and risky ones. All of them include the rethinking of the organizational structure, but to a different extend when it comes to the impact of the changes applied. While flagship projects typically only modify the matrix structure, the complete transformation will affect the whole bank. No matter which approach you pursue, there are some common patterns that you should consider integrating such as flat hierarchies, lateral leadership, and autonomous, small and cross-functional teams. While it makes absolutely sense to change the way we develop products and services, it is also necessary to make sure that every employee outside the “delivery” understands the agile way of working in order to avoid potential conflicts between agile-working teams and “the others”.
Success factors – what else?
At the end of my talk I highlighted other necessary success factors such as the need for an inspiring leadership and the autonomy to decide in order to allow entrepreneurial thinking. In addition, it is important to focus on the customers by integrating them in the development phase and by constantly closing the feedback cycle from creating hypothesis to validating them by real users. As innovative product developments typically follow the cone of uncertainty, we do recommend thinking also about other governance and budgeting processes such as a model that is built-on a traditional stage-gate process and is inspired by venture capital funding. It allows management to continuously increase the amount of money that is poured into an idea in alignment with passing the various stages.
Finally, I introduced the transition team approach that we typically use in order to tackle the change endeavor in an agile way. This is done by creating a cross-functional transition team that works on the backlog items of creating the new organization (whatever this will be) and typically supports the already agile-working teams by helping them solving impediments. If some of the big issues that affect larger parts of the organization should be tackled, then solution teams or task forces are installed that consist of all experts that are needed to clear the issue. No matter how far you are, you have to respect that such a large-scale transformation is definitely a journey you will travel most probably for years.
You can find my slides on Slideshare
Foto: Copyright Agilia Conference/Aguarra